Sunday, May 29, 2011

Guantanamo Cover Up

Thomas Riggins

On April 26, 2011 ScienceDaily reported the results of a new study made of the medical records of GTMO prisoners ("Medical Evidence of Torture Neglected in Guantanamo Bay Detainees, Suggests Review of Records"). The study was first reported in the online journal PLoS Medicine. The researchers, Vincent Iacopino (Physicians for Human Rights) and Stephen Xenakis, a retired US Army brigadier general, found that the medical personnel responsible for looking after the GTMO prisoners neither documented nor asked the causes for either the physical or mental injuries of the people they were supposed to "care" for. The researchers only had access to nine case files but the evidence they uncovered was considered "compelling" with respect to this dereliction of duty.

The GTMO prisoners described treatment by the US soldiers and other personnel that is torture according to the UN Convention Against Torture. The US says it doesn't torture prisoners and so uses a narrower definition than the UN and calls its techniques "enhanced interrogation." And Saddam Hussein didn't "gas" people, they were victims of "enhanced atmospheric pollution."

Here is what the US did, call it what you will. The prisoners were beaten really severely, bones were fractured, they were sexually assaulted, some were told they would be raped, they were water boarded to the point of asphyxiation, they were taken to be executed then spared at the last moment, they were "disappeared" then returned, they were not allowed to sleep, they were subject to extreme temperatures, they were put in stress positions, and forced to be nude. This last, by the way, is now used on the mainland --e.g, Pvt. Manning.

All these injuries, and the psychological results were in the medical records, without saying how they occurred, and the injuries are all CONSISTANT with torture techniques the prisoners reported being subject to. The Department of Defense medical personal failed to document any of the causes of the prisoners injuries and any psychological problems resulting from torture they attributed to "personality disorders" or "routine stressors of confinement" according to SD.

This evidence shows that the government's medical personnel FAILED both professionally and personally in their duty to their patients. It appears to me that they were complicit in covering up crimes against humanity in the treatment of these prisoners and in violations of basic human rights. And not only to me. The editors of PLoS wrote:"This paper adds new evidence that will bolster calls for further investigation into the complicity of medical personnel in torture at Guantanamo Bay, which clearly breaches fundamental human rights."

Friday, May 27, 2011

Science, Republicans and the Future of Earth

Thomas Riggins

ScienceDaily for April 19, 2001 has a disturbing news report ("Democrats and Republicans Increasingly Divided Over Global Warming, Study Says"). While scientists around the world are coming to a growing consensus concurring on the reality of global warming Americans are being polarized along political lines with Democrats accepting the scientific consensus and Republicans rejecting it.

Dr. Aaron M. McCright of Michigan State University published "a first-of-its-kind"
study of the politics of global warming. McCright, who was named in 2007 as a Kavli Frontiers Fellow in the National Academy of Sciences for his work on the sociology of climate change, says that it is "depressing" to see the gap growing between Democrats and Republicans on the issue of climate change. The gap jumped by 30% between 2001 and 2010. SD says McCright concludes that this gap keeps "meaningful national energy policies from being considered."

As long as science is rejected for pseudo-science how can we meaningfully solve our problems. How could we have funded cancer research if Republicans rejected the scientific view that cancers exist? This is pretty much where we are at today on the issue of global warming.

McCright says, "Instead of a public debate about different policies to deal with global warming, a significant percentage of the American public is still debating the science. As a result, we're failing to significantly address one of the most serious problems of our time."

By going over 10 years of Gallup Poll results the study found that people on the political right are increasingly rejecting the scientific consensus on global warming while people on the political left basically accept it.

Other finding were that in 2001 49% of Republicans thought global warming was already having effects but this number dropped to 29% in 2010. In 2001 60% of Democrats thought global warming was under way, a number that grew to 70% by 2010. In 2001 the gap between Republicans and Democrats was 11% and in 2010 41%.

If people did not call themselves Republicans or Democrats, but used the terms conservative and liberal instead then the gap grew from around 18% in 2001 to 44% in 2010.

Having a college degree makes it more likely that liberals and Democrats accept the scientific view but more unlikely that Republicans and conservatives will. If even college educated Republicans and conservatives are rejecting science then we are in real trouble. However, since we don't know how many of them got their degrees from bible colleges we can't really know for sure what's going on with them.

McCright explains these figures from the "prevailing" theory of how the American people get their political ideas-- from "political elites." McCright says, "In the last few decades political elites have become polarized on climate change. This has driven the political divide on this topic within the American public, as regular citizens have taken cues from ideological and party leaders they trust."

People also tend to turn to media outlets that reinforce what they already think. Think of Fox news vs NPR (which itself has more conservative than liberal viewpoints expressed, yet is deemed liberal). People who like one rarely pay attention to the other. Yet one actually reports scientific findings and the other prefers pseudo-science (take your pick).

Well, "this is not a recipe," McCright says, "for promoting a civil science-based discussion on this very serious environmental problem. Like with the national discussion on health care, we don't even agree on what the basic facts are."

Are things looking better? Not according to Dr. McCright. SD quotes him as follows: "Many Republican Party leaders have moved further to the right since the 2008 presidential election. We've also seen attacks on climate science by Tea Party activists. It seems like climate change denial has become something of a litmus test for Republican candidates. This continued elite polarization on climate change means that the general public will likely remain politically divided on climate change for a while."

So, the future does not portend well for the US to do anything serious in the realm of climate change. With many scientists convinced that 350 Parts per million of atmospheric CO2 is the upper limit that our air can take that is compatible in the long run with most life on Earth (we are already at 391 ppm and growing by 2ppm every year) the longer the Republicans ignore science and cater to special interest groups [i.e., the big capitalist corporations] the more damage they do to the entire planet for their personal short term agendas. This is a real crime against humanity now and in the future.